5 Amazing Open Spaces To Explore Near The M25

Family walking in open green forest outside of London.

Got a car and a clan in need of entertainment? No problem.

The M25 gets a bad rep, but within its reach are a multitude of fabulous family days out. Grab your backpacks, lace up your trainers and ready yourselves for a plethora of possible walks, cycle loops and picnic spots.  

Aldenham Country Park

kid at 100 Aker Wood sign in Aldenham Country Park
Copyright Matt Brown

Aldenham Country Park bursts with reservoir footpaths, nature trails, picnic and outdoor play areas, and even a farm. Best of all, it's the home of Winnie the Pooh's 100 Aker Wood. Yep, your family might pass Pooh or one of his other other furry friends whilst roaming Aldenham's many acres. Be sure to play Pooh Sticks at Pooh Bridge, and pay a cheering visit to Eeyore in his Gloomy Place.

A haven of diversity, Aldenham also boasts a 55-acre reservoir - look out for ducks, Canada geese, swans and more along the 2km footpath that passes along its edge. Walks are self-guided, but the park's website provides a wealth of information on its wildlife page to advise you on the flora, fauna, and animals that you may spot on your wander.

Kids can swing, climb, balance, zip, and crawl their way around the Adventure Playground, which is also part of the SEND (special educational needs and disability) Pavilion, making it a great place for children of all ages and abilities. Parents who have children with SEND can also attend an exclusive play session from 9-11am every Saturday and Sunday.

Be sure to follow guidance around social distancing and hand sanitising in the playground. Payment is £3, with adults and children under 2 going free; payment is card only. Time slots are 11.30-1pm, 2-3.30pm and 4-5.30pm, with limited spaces available to ensure that everyone is kept safe. There is no pre-booking, and drinks and snacks are available at the desk.

Epping Forest

Grab your bikes and/or walking boots - Epping Forest boasts phenomenal walks and cycle trails. From easier short walks for smaller tots to long yomps with older kids, the forest provides plenty of options to get out and about with the family.

Home to over 50,000 ancient pollard trees and 100 lakes and ponds, and made up of 50 distinct areas of woodland, Epping Forest is of national and international conservation importance. If you fancy it, make a dent in the 82-mile Essex Way or explore the 1000 acre River Lee Country Park. Speaking of the Lee Valley, follow a 2.5 mile sculpture trail from Hooks Marsh car park and play art detective with the kid. Search for the 'Artworks Route One' on the Lee Valley website and download their trail guide.

Epping Forest is open 365 days and is free of charge. Social distancing posters are currently forest-wide, and there is currently no parking in the forest, so head over on your bike or by foot.

kids walking their bikes in Epping Forest

Rainham Marshes

If you've got a burgeoning bird-spotter in your family, Rainham Marshes is a perfect day out. A medieval landscape of 411 hectares, the marshes are a combination of wet grassland and scrub managed by the RSPB. Their 2km of boardwalk is both great rambling territory and accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Two hides along the walk provide the ideal opportunity to bird watch: keep your eyes peeled for breeding wading birds, reed warblers, little egrets, water voles and water shrews, all of whom are summer visitors to the reserve.

The reserve is now open from 9.30am-5pm Thursday to Sunday for a limited capacity. The car park and trails are open, but the visitor centre, toilets, shop and cafe are closed. Social distancing must be followed. Download a Rainham Marshes trail guide ahead of your visit from the RSPB website.

Box Hill

view of box hill in surrey

Nestled in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Box Hill is another great spot for your mini explorers. On a clear day you can catch phenomenal views of the surrounding countryside, and there are a huge number of walks to choose from. Box Hill's Natural Play Trail is ideal for adventurous toddlers, and you can take in one of Surrey's landmarks along the Stepping Stones walk. Walk guides are all downloadable for free from the National Trust's website.  Check out our guide to other walks and nature trails in Surrey - you may as well make a real day of it!

There's no need to pre-book, but car parking charges do apply (top tip - download RingGo for easy payment). Public toilets are open, as is the Servery from 10am-4pm, but the Cafe and Discovery Zone are closed. Dogs are welcome, but best kept on leads if around grazing livestock.


Walk a work of art! Painshill is an award-winning 18th century landscape garden full of winding paths perfect for wandering. Look out for the Ruined Abbey, Gothic Temple, and Mausoleum, and take a stroll around the Serpentine Lake. Wildlife spotting trails are available, and a wildflower meadow offers the perfect opportunity to get lost in nature. Dogs welcome (but best kept on a lead).

Open from 10am-6pm, there are three time slots into which you can pre-book online (10am-12noon, 12noon-2pm, 2pm-4pm). Parking is free, and the tea room is open from 10.30am-4.30pm - but picnics are also welcome! The play area, Grotto and Gothic Tower remain closed at this time. The main toilets are closed for health and safety reasons, but port-a-loos are situated around the site and the accessible toilet in the Visitor Centre is operational.


Whilst you're looking for inspiration, why not check out our list of 8 great destinations to get out of the house that are a little further afield than the M25's boundaries. It's always worth fore-planning your next day trip!

Header image: Nicolas Picard, Unsplash



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